ONCE again, Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo is in the news for all the wrong reasons. A few days ago, a nine-year-old lioness died upon her arrival to a sanctuary in Lahore. Now, there are reports that another lion who fell sick on the journey has died after battling for his life at a vet’s clinic. Similarly, a female deer hog that was injured after being wounded by a male deer hog died during her relocation process. According to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, the heat and stress from the journey likely caused the death of the animals. To state the obvious, the authorities must take better care to ensure all precautions are taken before shifting the animals from a caged existence to open spaces. Otherwise, even in the process of trying to ‘save’ them, we will keep losing these majestic creatures to incompetency, neglect and ill-planning.

While Marghazar Zoo may have achieved notoriety over the years because of the number of animals that have died there — and particularly due to the international attention given to its sole elephant, Kaavan, who displayed signs of extreme distress in his small enclosure — the issue spans more than one zoo. Earlier, in May, a three-year-old giraffe from South Africa was found dead at the Peshawar Zoo. Other giraffes imported to Karachi and Lahore zoos have also met sudden and untimely deaths. And in 2018, an Asian lion trained for the circus died of tuberculosis at the Karachi Zoological Gardens. In 2014, a Bengal tiger died due to an unknown illness at the Karachi Zoo. In 2011, three lion cubs died at the same zoo, while a fourth ‘disappeared’, and was later said to have been eaten by his mother. There needs to be a larger discussion on cruelty to animals, the use of animals for entertainment, killing animals for their body parts, the logic of having commercial zoos and circuses in this day and age, and our extractive and exploitative relationship with the natural environment that includes all sentient beings.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020

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